One of the great ideas that Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey came up with to help solve the “budget crisis” was to introduce a co-contribution of $7 when people visited the GP. There was immediate outrage and outcry. It was pretty clear that the Opposition, the Greens and a number of the independent senators were not going to support such a policy. And it duly failed to get through the Senate. It was a political godsend for Bill Shorten and the opponents of the Abbott government in the Senate most whom are shameless political opportunists.
There were no political downside for opposing the unpopular measure and there was a predictable amount of political posturing about protecting the underdog. But then, in a stroke of unbelievable political stupidity, Tony Abbott decided to introduce a $20 co-payment when people visited their GP. His thinking must have gone something like this: “Okay, we couldn’t get the $7 co-payment through, so will just introduce a larger one. That should be more popular.” What on earth did he think the reaction to this was going to be. He had already waved the red rag at the bull, so then he got a rag that was three times bigger and brighter and waved that. Brilliant!
It was left to the new Minister of Health, Sussan Ley, to come back from leave and sink the idea the day after Tony Abbott had announced it.
Tony Abbott really has two problems now. At the end of 2014, he said he was going to scrape the barnacles off the Government and reboot the government. There will now be a general perception that the government has started 2015 as a disorganised rabble, with the problem starting right at the top. where Abbott is doing a fair imitation of Barnacle Bill.
His other major problem is that he is frequently creating situations that allow an increasingly confident Senate to roll the government time and again on key issues. The independent senators are clocking up considerable political mileage by opposing and defeating unpopular government measures. Someone is going to need to get Abbott under control.
His statement about his cricketing prowess: ““I couldn’t bat, I couldn’t bowl, I couldn’t field, but I could sledge, and I think I held my place in the team on this basis.” was an act of unthinking political stupidity. Did he not think what the commentariat would do with a statement like that? Clearly not. And he should have, after all he was once a journalist. The Federal Liberal government has a deep-seated problem. Tony Abbott appears to be on the way of being Australia’s equivalent of George Dubya Bush, the worst and possibly the dumbest, American president ever.
If the polls are any indication, the government will lose office in 2016. Its only hope is to find some way of getting rid of Abbott and replacing him with either Turnbull or Bishop.
It’s not going to be pretty but it certainly going to be interesting.